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Aaron Rodgers, who was activated off injured reserve Saturday, will go through a “trial practice week” by primarily serving as the scout team quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers broke his right clavicle Oct. 15 and underwent a surgical repair.
“He’s trial return,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “Just like everybody. I go through this every time a player comes off an injury. You either go down and you’re in the rehab group, and then once you get out of the rehab group, you’re trial return, so you’re limited reps in the practice.”
McCarthy stressed that Rodgers has not been medically cleared for a full return and won’t be this week.
“That’s why we call it trial return because he’s not cut loose for a full practice,” McCarthy said. “The medical clearance won’t be [an option] until next week.”
McCarthy said Rodgers is practicing even though he can’t play Sunday against the winless Browns.
“Obviously, scout-team work is something that he will do,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, the drill work. It’s important for him to feel the pass rush and get acclimated. We won’t be in pads on Wednesday, but it will be a padded practice on Thursday, so you have to make sure you identify exactly what you want to get done there.”
The Packers (6-6) are still alive in the NFC playoff picture and play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, with Brett Hundley making his seventh start since Rodgers was injured in Week 6.
Rodgers is eligible under the league’s designated to return rules for the Packers’ Dec. 17 game against the Panthers. He still would need medical clearance to formally return to play, but his scout team work this week will serve as the next step before a full return to practice next week.
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The Packers’ first practice this week is Wednesday.
The future looked bleak for Green Bay when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6, raising doubts he would play again this season. The team floundered with backup quarterback Brett Hundley under center, starting with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings the day Rodgers was injured and continued to be on the wrong side of the scoreboard in four of the next five games.
Then Green Bay orchestrated a 26-20 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, and the win could not have come at a better time. Not only did the Packers improve to 6-6, they put themselves in position to become a playoff team just in time for Rodgers’ reported return in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers. Or so it seemed.
Any and all playoff hopes for Green Bay require winning out the rest of the way and ending the season with a 10-6 record. Since 2002, the year the league expanded to 32 teams, 162 clubs have won 10 or more games; 152 (94 percent) of those made the playoffs. But it won’t be that easy. Yes, the Packers get to play the 0-12 Cleveland Browns on the road in Week 13, but then they have to face, in order: Carolina Panthers on the road, Minnesota Vikings at home and Detroit Lions on the road. Bright side: Those are also three teams that stand in their way of a playoff spot.
Using the same win probabilities that fuel our weekly power rankings, the most likely win, other than the matchup against the Browns, is the game against the Detroit Lions in the regular season finale (40 percent win probability). Maybe the Packers’ job becomes easier if Lions quarterback Matt Stafford misses time after suffering a bone bruise in his right hand during Sunday’s 44-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but at best that brings it to a 50/50 coin flip.
The hardest game remaining for Green Bay is against the Week 16 matchup against the Vikings (26 percent win probability), the No. 1 team in our power rankings. According to Football Outsiders, Minnesota is the fifth-best team in the NFL, with an offense that ranks No. 4 and a defense that ranks No. 6.
Perhaps you bump up the Packers’ chances in the games Rodgers could be expected to play after he returns from injury, but the boost won’t be as big as you might think. The Packers’ offense scored 9.4 points more than expected with Rodgers under center rather than Hundley, but that was including a disastrous game in Week 11 against the Baltimore Ravens, which featured five turnovers, three of which were interceptions thrown by Hundley. In the five other games started by Hundley this season, Green Bay’s offense scored 6.5 points per game more than expected. In other words, expect the Packers to be underdogs in each game following the one against the Browns no matter who lines up under center.